by Lynn Roulo: Explains why putting in the work of a daily yoga practice is so important for long-term growth, both on and off your mat…
People sometimes ask about my personal yoga practice, and they are often surprised to hear that I‘ve been maintaining a daily Kundalini Yoga practice for 12 years. It’s surprising to me too, but in 2009 when I finished Kundalini Yoga teacher training, my teachers were clear that if we planned to teach, it was important to maintain a daily practice. I took this advice seriously and with the exception of maybe 2 days in the last 12 years (roughly 4,380 days), I’ve done Kundalini Yoga every single day.
What’s a Daily Practice?
A daily practice means different things for different people ranging from a few sun salutations to several hours of a particular sequence or class. For me, it means I do a Kundalini Yoga kriya or meditation every day. My practice time ranges from 3 minutes (a meditation or single exercise) to 9 hours (long sessions at the Kundalini Yoga festivals). Most days I spend around 40 minutes doing my practice which includes an 11-minute deep relaxation.
The Benefits of a Daily Yoga Practice
When I started down this path 12 years ago, I had no idea the effects of a daily practice would be so transformative. Having this daily discipline helped me make major life changes like moving from San Francisco, California to Athens, Greece. It helped me quit my job as a financial consultant and become a yoga teacher and writer.
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The benefits are deep and wide-ranging, and if you want to make positive changes in your life, establishing a daily yoga practice is one of the best things you can do. Let’s explore four benefits you can expect from a daily practice.
1. A daily reboot for your mind.
The same way you reboot your computer when it starts to get overloaded, a daily yoga practice acts as a daily reboot for your mind. No matter what’s happening, how overwhelmed I feel or how busy I imagine I am, my daily practice always makes me feel better. I don’t always enjoy doing it, but usually within a couple of minutes of starting, the magic begins, I regain my perspective and suddenly, life doesn’t seem so stressful. I literally feel like it reboots my thinking and my emotional state. This has been particularly helpful during all the uncertainty of the pandemic and with the limitations of the lockdowns. This daily reboot means even the bad days don’t get that bad.
2. A sense of stability.
Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine discovered that yoga changes the brain’s chemistry. Published in Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, their study reports that yoga triggers the release of the brain chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), known as the brain’s calming chemical. It’s official: yoga makes you calm. And while the scientific link to yoga and the brain is important, even more relevant is the actual experience.
I’m a generally stable person, but as I’ve changed jobs, countries and had people come in and out of my life, there have been plenty of moments when I’ve started to feel overwhelmed. But it’s never felt unmanageable, because every day I go back to my breath, reconnect with my body and process some of the energy of my emotions. Someone once asked me where “home” is for me. I thought for a minute and then answered “it’s my daily practice.” This is where I go to feel relaxed and secure. It stabilizes me.
3. Huge physical benefits, particularly in strengthening the breath.
The physical benefits range from increased flexibility to muscle toning and from higher energy to stronger lungs. The most transformative effect for me was the change in my breath.
I grew up with severe asthma so breathing was not always my strong point. That has changed completely over the last 12 years. The more I do my yoga practice, the more I understand everything starts and ends with the breath. With greater control over my breathing, I feel very little anxiety these days, and my physical endurance is better than it was when I was in my 20s. It feels good to have so much energy, and this energy makes it possible for me to enjoy life and pursue my goals.
4. It makes you more “you.”
This is the least tangible and yet most important benefit. It works differently for different people but in my situation, it’s observable. My life looks completely different.
When I look at my life now and my life 12 years ago, I feel like the accountant sitting in an office in San Francisco was like a shadow of my true self. It wasn’t fake, but it wasn’t the full me. These days, I feel like the full me. When people ask about my story, I credit my decision to move from San Francisco to Athens to my Kundalini Yoga practice. Same thing for my career change from a CFO to a Kundalini Yoga/Enneagram instructor and writer. I’m grateful for this more radiant version of my life. I’m not the only one to report this alignment. Long-time Kundalini Yoga practitioners reference how their practice gives them a stronger sense of themselves and makes them feel more alive and fully present.
How to Develop a Daily Yoga Practice
Kundalini Yoga teaches us that experience trumps everything, so I tell my students, don’t believe me, try a daily yoga practice for a month and find out for yourself.
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Your practice doesn’t need to be long, it needs to be consistent. My teachers would say “the difference between a long practice and a short practice is big but the difference between a short practice and no practice is tremendous.” With that in mind, I set my daily minimum at three minutes. Most days I do more but with such a modest daily minimum, it is easier to be consistent. I recommend you do the same. Looking for a really easy way to get started? Browse this catalog to find something that fits your needs.
- Keep a daily journal and track your mood both before and after your yoga practice. I suspect you’ll observe the benefits outlined above and maybe a few more. But try it for yourself and let me know.
- Don’t expect to enjoy your practice every day. This isn’t a recreational sport or a hobby. You are cultivating a discipline. With that in mind, acknowledge any negative feelings about doing your practice and then put them off to the side. When you practice regardless of your emotional state, you develop grit. Grit helps you in all aspects of your life.
- Look for gradual shifts instead of overnight transformation. Too often people expect overnight transformation after a lifetime of patterned thinking. Trust the process and understand that breath by breath and movement by movement, you are shedding energetic blocks and releasing stuck emotions that hold you back. Change is a funny thing. It can feel like nothing is happening and then suddenly everything shifts. Instead of getting frustrated, congratulate yourself for showing up to your practice every day. The journey isn’t about the destination, it’s about your growth and evolution along the way.